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Cheese board for the holidays
December 2010

Making a cheese board full of warm, rich colors is a simple and delicious way to create a holiday appetizer. Cheese boards make an excellent party appetizer or snack - and even work splendidly as a separate course during a gourmet holiday feast. A cheeseboard can be created for any occasion but now is the best time of year to serve one–a holiday-themed cheese plate will look great, taste delicious and won’t take long to prepare.

What to include:

In addition to fromage, a holiday cheese platter can include all sorts of delicious foods. Accompaniments like fruits, meats and nuts, combined with a colorful selection of cheeses - and some special holiday flourishes - are all you need to make a truly festive arrangement. Squash, raisins, dates, almonds and walnuts all look great when presented with different cheeses. Flatbreads and crackers make perfect vessels for enjoying fromage and holiday desserts like cookies and candy canes add a festive aura to a cheese board.

For a bright and colorful component, try adding dried fruits like orange mango and red pomegranate. Cranberries will look great as well, and taste great with smooth, flavorful cheeses like Ile de France goat cheese.
Fruitcake slices are a natural fit for the holidays too, and their sweetness is delicious contrast to salty cheeses like bleu d’Auvergne and other blue cheeses.

The fromage:

- Select your main cheeses from fresh, soft and hard families. Ile de France Brie is soft smooth and buttery, but if you want a richer flavor, try St. Andre. Fol Epi is hard and has a nutty taste and smooth texture.

- Pack your board with varying colors so it’s as aesthetically pleasing as it is appetizing. Chaumes has a warm golden color that looks striking next to other cheeses. Blue cheeses, such as St. Agur, have brightly colored veins

- Vary the milk - Cheeseboards should present a variety of cheeses – and different cheeses are made with different milks. Goat cheese has a tangy taste and a smooth finish, while Etorki - made with sheep’s milk – has a nutty, sweet flavor with hints of caramel. Cow’s milk is the base of most French cheeses, including Fol Epi, St. Andre and Ile de France brie.

- Perfect the flavors - Specialty cheeses have added flavors that brings a new experience Gourmandise features walnuts, adding a crunchy texture, while Rambol Fumé has an extra creamy texture and subtle natural smoked taste.

The pairings:

• In general, nuts are an excellent pair with cheese. Certain specific pairings go together even better than most. Walnuts and pecan nuts go well with blue cheeses, such as Roquefort or St. Agur. Almonds with sheep's milk cheeses like Etorki, and Hazelnuts with goat cheeses.

• Cheeses with well-known natural compliments are easy to serve and eat. Apples and brie cheese, and bleu cheeses and honey are great choices.

• Different types of bread and crackers are important. Heartier breads stand up to the flavors of strong cheeses will flatbread crackers are ideal for spreadable cheese.

Finishing touches:

• Holiday-themed serving boards and trays are perfect for making cheese platters festive. Gold serving plates make the cheeses and accompaniments stand out. Try using red napkins to further emphasize the specialness of the occasion.

• Add even more flavor and color with different jams, spreads and honeys presented in small, clear dishes.